Sunday, May 21, 2006

Andrew Sullivan and The Conservative Soul

There are days when I want to bury myself in escapist television and watch adventure movies or cops and robbers. This Sunday past would have been such a day except I looked at what my husband was watching. He, geek that he is (I am a nerd, and proud of it) watches Book TV C-SPAN each weekend. Now I have to add the book The Conservative Soul by Andrew Sullivan to my Read This Now list.

On this day I found myself listening to the words of Andrew Sullivan as he spoke about the need for doubt in religion and in government. What I heard was an excellent statement of the use of doubt (a meme) in fostering a personal examination of faith; in guarding the limits on governmental power so important to a democracy; and in the necessity of not blindly accepting someone’s claim to know THE ANSWER or THE TRUTH, since –he seemed to implying or at least I think that--these are unknowable and each must seek the knowledge in his own way and thereby guard the honesty of the search. He did not use these words. His message was much more eloquent and meaningful. But now, the meme of necessary doubt is richer for me.

I tried to access the show for links or for viewing. These are the links to C-SPAN and information about the show that you can use to discover this talk for yourself. Basic link for the Book TV shows. Here you can get schedules and view the archives. Show featuring Anderson. The show: 2006 Book Expo America-Saturday Coverage originally broadcast at 8:00 am EST on May 20, 2006. This show presented a panel discussion after the talks by Anderson with Pat Buchanan, Frank Rich, Arianna Huffington and Lynn Shearr (spelling? I was not quick enough to catch her name!) The discussion was thought provoking and ranged from the War in Iraq to the artificiality of the Red vs. Blue States dichotomy to the culture wars of America as understood by the Babyboomers and by the newer generations. The blog of Andrew Sullivan. In a visit to this blog I found at least two postings that were part of a dialogue related to the talk on Book TV mentioned in this posting

I emailed Mr. Sullivan and asked for a link to a copy of his talk that I could post. When I get it, I will add it to this blog. Watch for it. He will make you think as much as William Raspberry of Gannet News does.

Watch for his articles in Time Magazine, too. I will from now on. (At home, we get The Week; guess I will need to start a subscription to Time.)


I want to make a list of memes that influence us and shape society, past, present and future. I have mine. Gaia is one; evolution is another; sustainablity and Spaceship Earth are two more; as are social darwinism, and a new one I just came across: Christianism. I know of 100s that I plan to consider in detail some day.

The power of a meme comes not from general agreement with its message. I do not subscribe to social darwinism. However, the meme forces me to think about society and culture in ways that I would not have perceived if I had never known the term.

But what memes are important or controversial or anathema to you? Send in your list, comments, or links to your ideas on the subject.

From high school history I know that our beliefs in and about democracy grew out of the Magna Carta, and are shaped by the expressions in The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States. In fact, when I think of our nation, the promises of The Declaration of Independence seem as binding as any law or the Constitution could ever be.

What memes do you believe shape American culture today? No, this is not a school assignment. But ideas influence us all. Which ones are important to you?
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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A List of Major Scientific Theories

I sometimes try to think of the theories that shape science today—you know, the ones that provide the underpinnings for our modern understanding of the world; those big ideas that we all just know and through which we interpret the world, or try to deny.

Today I even made a Google search for “major science theories.” This poor choice of words produced little useful information on the first two pages of search results. Consequently, I turned my attention elsewhere and tried to locate a good download counter for my html files that would work on a Windows server. That’s another story.

These are the theories with which I am familiar.
Primarily, we must theorize that we live in a material world. You laugh. Galileo might have been tried for heresey for a belief in materialism. Yep, his cosmological beliefs were a smokescreen for this more dangerous idea that would threaten the spiritualism of the Church. So says P. Redondi in Galileo Heretic.
1. The Atomic Theory
2. The Theory of Matter and Energy: Conservation of Matter and Energy
3. The Cell Theory
4. The Germ Theory
5. The Theory of Plate Tectonics
6. The Theory of Evolution
7. The Big Bang Theory
8. Chaos Theory
9. The “Gaia” Theory of a Sustainable Earth which is illustrated with the idea of Spaceship Earth
10. The Theory of Quantum Mechanics
11. The Theory of Special Relativity which subsumes The Theory of General Relativity which subsumes Newtonian theories of motion
12. The Photon Theory of Light Energy and its speed of light
13. The Theory of Electromagnetism as begun by Maxwell and continued with the work of others
14. The Theory of Radioactivity or Nuclear Theory
15. The Theory of Molecular Bonds
16. The Theory of States of Matter—or is this part of the Atomic Theory and the Molecular Bond Theory?
17. The Theory of Thermodynamics—hey, I guess this theory takes care of the States of Matter and the Molecular Bond theories.
18. The Theory of Homeostasis within Living Organisms
19. The Constructivist Theory of Learning
20. The theories of self and development of mental processes in the brain.
21. Theory of Gravity

Well, I managed to name more than the 10 I vaguely thought I would be able to list. There are more. Each of them explains a major aspect of our world. I have not mentioned theories that deal with weather or population stresses or social and cultural behavior or even the idea that the universe is huge. Maybe some of you can critique the list, add to it, and eventually maybe pare it down to the essential major theories. Mmm. Back to Google.

Anyone care to speculate with me?

According to scientists, the proof is in the pudding. If a theory makes a prediction and the prediction holds up, then there must be something correct about the theory.